Impossible Foods is gearing up to enter China, and it looks like they might launch in that country not with their signature “bleeding” beef but instead with a plant-based pork product.
In a Bloomberg TV interview at the China International Import Expo in Shanghai today, Impossible CEO Pat Brown told cameras that the company has “a very good prototype” of plant-based pork. “It’s really just a matter of commercializing and scaling that,” he added.
We already knew that Impossible was developing alternatives to pork and fish. At CES last year (we’re returning for FoodTech Live, join us!) Pat Brown told me that they were also tackling whole cuts of meat, like steak.
Brown also told Bloomberg that Impossible was eyeing an expansion into China, which he said has “always been the most important country for our mission.” It’s easy to see why. China accounts for over one fourth of the world’s meat consumption and is also the largest producer of pork globally.
Nonetheless, the most populated country in the world is primed to embrace plant-based meat. The Chinese government is aiming to reduce its meat consumption by 50 percent by 2030, and Allied Market Research reports that the Asia-Pacific region is the fastest-growing market for meat alternatives. There’s also added motivation thanks to the recent outbreak of the African Swine Flu, which could cut the country’s pig population in half by the end of this year.
Brown told Bloomberg that Impossible is way too small to fill the supply-demand gap created by the African Swine Flu. However, he noted that outbreaks like these illustrate the problems with food security associated with meat, and could help turn people towards more sustainable plant-based alternatives.
Indeed, once Impossible does enter the Chinese market, it would make sense they do so with a pork alternative, since pork is far and away the most consumed meat in China. But Impossible wouldn’t be the only one bringing plant-based pork to Asian audiences. Omnipork, made by Hong Kong-based Right Treat, makes a ground pork alternative developed specifically to appeal to Asian palates. Omnipork isn’t yet available in China but when I spoke to CEO David Yeung earlier this year he said they were aiming to launch in that country later this year.
Of course, with China’s massive hunger for pork there’s plenty of room for more than one player in the market. Especially if future food-safety scares nudge more Chinese consumers to look to plant-based alternatives to feed their hunger for pork.
The bigger point is that once it gets to China, Impossible Foods will have access to a brand new massive market. One that’s primed and ready to hop on the plant-based meat train. If Impossible can hook Chinese consumers — and with the popularity of the Impossible Whopper, the startup has shown that it knows how to stir up consumer demand — it could have a significant ripple effect on the global industrialized meat industry.
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